Perseverance Rover Finds Sandstone Bedrock That Could Contain Evidence of Life
The Perseverance rover has experienced more than 600 Martian days since its landing in February 2021. During its 8-mile (13-kilometer) drive, the robot has collected more than a dozen samples that are destined for Earth in the next few years. NASA now reports that Perseverance has spotted an alluring bit of bedrock to add to its collection. The rock outcrop, in an era called Yori Pass, could contain clues in NASA’s search for organics and biosignatures.
Perseverance landed in grand fashion on the floor of Jezero Crater using the same rocket sled mechanism as Curiosity ten years earlier. From there, it rolled toward the ancient river delta that fed the lake that once filled Jezero. Along the way, Perseverance has supported NASA’s wildly successful Ingenuity helicopter, which is still operational despite NASA’s near-certainty the aircraft’s off-the-shelf hardware would fail during the first Martian winter. Yori Pass is part of the delta, where scientists believe there could be evidence of ancient life from the red planet’s wetter days.
According to NASA, the team has been anxious to explore this area for months. Shortly after entering Yori Pass, Perseverance found a rock that bears a striking resemblance to one of the rover samples in July 2022. It’s sandstone, which means it was assembled from fine grains that were carried in water from other areas before settling and eventually forming bedrock — it’s the perfect place to go looking for evidence of ancient life. “We often prioritize study of fine-grained sedimentary rocks like this one in our search for organics and potential biosignatures,” says deputy project scientist Katie Stack Morgan.
Perseverance is now preparing to collect a sample from Yori Pass, which will be stored with more than a dozen others in the robot’s belly until the sample return mission gets underway in the late 2020s. After picking up the sample, Perseverance is scheduled to drive 745 feet (227 meters) southeast to a large sand dune dubbed “Observation Mountain” by the science team. There, Perseverance will collect the first samples of regolith, which is a mixture of crushed rock and dust.
NASA is working closely with the European Space Agency (ESA) on the sample return mission. As you can see in the animation above, the mission will rely on Perseverance to deliver the samples to the lander. Although, the mission will also bring two Ingenuity-like helicopters along to help out. The samples will be loaded into the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) and blasted into orbit. There, an ESA spacecraft will rendezvous with the payload and ferry it back to Earth. NASA believes the samples could be on Earth as soon as 2033.
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November 23, 2022 at 06:47AM